Orange Beach, Alabama—Glass Menagerie

Orange Beach is home to Alabama’s only public-access glass blowing studio. The Hot Shop @ Orange Beach Arts Center is  attracting regional and national attention to the arts facility, which is open for tours,Orange Beach, Alabama classes, demonstrations, special events and rentals.  A $230,000 donation of glass equipment from Joe and Debbie Thompson of Bear Creek Glass made the project possible.  Thompson, a glass blower who had recently relocated from Birmingham to Orange Beach, had been looking for a place to donate some of his equipment and was excited by the prospect of introducing the public to his art form. The City of Orange Beach and Friends of the Arts, Inc. worked with local designer Pat Martin to convert two existing structures into a 700-square foot studio.

The Hot Shop’s director, glass artist Sam Cornman, has been working with hot glass for more than a decade. His artwork can be found in collections ranging from the Gulf Coast to Japan. He’s looking forward to building the Hot Shop into a regional and national presence in both the glass and craft art communities.

The Arts Center offers a number of educational opportunities including regularly-scheduled  hot glass classes and workshops designed for novices as well as experts. Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., The Hot Shop is open to the public by appointment–for a fee, visitors can blow a glass ornament or paperweight under Cornman’s supervision.

Opened in 2005, the Arts Center occupies a building which housed the historic Orange Beach Hotel, which was built in the 1920s to cater to guests who arrived by boat.  The Center currently features the work of more than 120 local artists. Manager Wanda Price  is excited about the glassblowing classes and field trips which are offered throughout the year. “We’ve started having students come on field trips. We had a group from Satsuma High School in the fall and they were really enthusiastic. Students who come here get an introduction to the history and science of glassmaking as well as some one-on-one instruction from our glass artist. We’d like to become a field trip destination for all area students.” Field trip offerings have expanded to include visits by seniors and other specialty groups, and the Hot Shop has now begun scheduling “Hot Glass Blowouts” where visitors can watch large pieces of glass being blown. Price is also seeing a high level of enthusiasm in the visitors who come to make their own blown-glass ornaments or paperweights. “People just love it, and the ornaments are really cool. For most people, it’s just one of those things you’ve always wanted to do.”

The Hot Shop is located at the Orange Beach Arts Center, located at 26389 Canal Road in Orange Beach, Alabama. The Arts Center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information on visiting the Hot Shop, phone 251-981-2787 or visit the website at www.orangebeachartcenter.com

About the Author

Kathie Farnell

Freelance writer Kathie Farnell lives in Foley, Alabama, ten miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, with her husband, photographer Jack Purser, and a flock of cats. She has written travel articles for print and web publications since 1992, and also produces programming for public television and radio through her nonprofit corporation, Artemis Media Project. The couple enjoy exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations and spending time on the Gulf beaches.

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